The Freelancer’s Guide to Increasing Referral Business
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One of the biggest challenges involved in freelance work is reaching and maintaining a steady workload. For many freelancers finding new clients can be a time-consuming process, which leaves less time for income-producing work. What if this effort could be reduced or eliminated? You could more completely dedicate your focus to earning money and doing a great job.
Increasing the amount of referral business you receive can be one of the most effective ways to reduce the amount of time that is spent on no-income producing activities. Actively working to increase referrals from clients, friends, and family is often not a priority, as many freelancers feel that is not in their control. Instead, they just wait — and hope — that someone sends them a referral.
Reasons to Love Referrals
They Find You
Less work is required on your part to land new gigs via referrals. Less work for the same results is always good.
Those who are referred to you will have a higher opinion of your services and more trust for you because someone they respect has recommended you. The trust that they have for whoever recommended you is partially transferred to trust in you.
You Have an Advantage
If a client is talking to other freelancers in regards to their project, as a referral from a friend you will have an advantage over the others (all other factors being equal).
Word-of-mouth referrals are essentially free advertising for you and your services. Not only is it free, but it’s actually more effective than just about any other type of advertising you can do.
The more happy clients you have, the more referrals you’re likely to receive. And the more referrals you receive, the more customers you’ll have spreading the word about your services. In most cases, the longer you’ve been around the more referrals you’ll get.
12 Ways to Increase the Number of Referrals You Receive
1. Provide Superior Quality
The best thing you can do to improve your chances of getting referrals is to provide a quality of work that blows clients away. Clients that get these results will be your best advertisements as they have had a great experience and can share their story with others in need of great service.
Without high quality work, you’re unlikely to get many referrals, if any. People simply don’t want to refer a friend to someone who won’t live up to their expectations. If you’re focusing too much of your effort on the other methods of growing referrals, your quality of work can suffer and your other efforts will be wasted.
2. Take Care of Your Customers
Customer service counts for freelancers, too. Focus on providing timely and clear communication, and always be professional. In many cases, the service provided is actually what satisfies the client more so than the work itself.
3. Under Promise, Over Deliver
It’s a bit of a cliche, but it is very effective in allowing you to keep your clients satisfied. Don’t promise them anything that isn’t likely to happen, and give yourself the chance to out-do their expectations. With this strategy they should never be disappointed.
4. Ask for Referrals
Sometimes you just have to ask for what you want. Many clients will be willing to refer you to friends or colleagues, but they may not even think about it unless you bring it up. Remind customers that referrals are a big part of your business, and ask them if they know of anyone that could benefit from your services. If you have done an exceptional job for them, chances are they will make an effort to help you in this way.
5. Distribute Business Cards
Whenever you get a chance, give a business card to a client or perspective client. If someone has your business card they can easily contact you and there is no need to search for a service provider: you’re right there for them.
6. Follow Up with Former Clients from Time-to-Time
Staying in touch with clients and former clients is essential to developing more referral business. If you’ve spoken with a client recently they are more likely to have you in mind when a referral opportunity presents itself. Those who are able to attract a significant number of referrals have found a way to stay in the forefront of the minds of clients.
7. Make it Easy for Others to Refer You
Let’s face it, clients are more likely to refer you if it’s convenient for them. Do they have to search for your phone number, email address, or website address? If so, you’re running the risk that they’ll refer someone else who has made it more convenient for them to do so. Distributing business cards helps in this way, as does periodic mailings or emails.
Real Estate agents do this very well by sending out things like magnets and calendars to clients (Our estate agent sends us a bottle of wine every Christmas! No phone numbers written on the bottle, though… — Ed). When someone is looking for their phone number, it’s easily accessible because of that magnet on the refrigerator. Having a memorable URL is another big help here. If they can’t remember your URL, they can’t tell their friends where to find you without looking it up.
8. Have Clearly Defined Services
Sometimes your clients may know exactly what type of service you have provided for them, but they may not know about some of the other services that you offer. If your services are clearly defined and easily understood, the client might see an opportunity for you to help someone else.
Your website is probably one of your key methods for communicating information about your services. How clearly defined are they? When a referral arrives at your website, will they be able to tell exactly how you can help them?
9. Ask Clients for Feedback
After you have completed a project, it’s a good habit to ask them for their thoughts on the service that you provided. Were they satisfied with your work to the extent that they would be willing to refer a friend? Are there areas that you can improve your work and your service? If you’re able to do a better job of satisfying your clients, you’ll get more referrals.
10. Have a Competitive Advantage
If your client is asked to refer a freelancer, what will make them choose you over someone else? Most of us have a great deal of competition with other service providers. Having an edge or a competitive advantage to separate yourself from the pack will pay huge dividends. Take the time to find something that sets you apart from the crowd, and make sure that it’s communicated through your marketing and promotion. As clients come to recognize your competitive advantage you will have a better chance of getting their recommendation.
11. Thank People for Their Referrals
When someone sends you a referral, take the time to let them know that you appreciate the fact that they thought of you, and let them know that it makes a real difference for you and your business. Friends, family, and clients will feel good about the impact that they’re able to have on your work, and hopefully they’ll look for even more opportunities to send business your way.
12. Grow Your Professional Network
In addition to relying on friends, family, and clients for referrals, developing a strong network of fellow professionals can make a world of difference. Those professionals may have clients that are in need of your services, they may have perspective clients that are looking for something they can’t provide, or the may just have more work than they can handle. In any situation, if they have a contact that they feel is qualified for the job, they’ll probably make a referral.